Retiring our coal-fired power plants by 2025.

A grid powered mostly by renewable energy.

Customer savings of $650 million by 2040 over our previous plan.

Exciting stuff, but what does it mean exactly? 

These are among the plans outlined in our Integrated Resources Plan (IRP). So, what is that, you ask?

Energy providers in Michigan are periodically required to submit their plans for how they will generate electricity to the Michigan Public Service Commission. Those plans are designed using the state’s IRP process, and help the MPSC know if energy providers across the state have the resources to make sure Michiganders have the energy we need in the future.

Today, Consumers Energy announced the details of our next IRP filing, also known as our Clean Energy Plan. The updated Clean Energy Plan calls for us to stop using coal by 2025, which is 15 years earlier than our current timeline. It also keeps us on the path to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

So, what does a no-coal future mean for Michigan? It means that over the life of our plan, we will:

  • Reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 63 million tons.
  • Avoid more than 220 billion gallons of water usage from our system each year.
  • Avoid more than 3 billion cubic yards of coal ash waste from our system.

To get there, we are investing in renewable energy, specifically solar. By 2040, we plan to meet more than 60 percent of our energy needs with renewable energy sources. We’ve already begun tapping more solar power and plan to add nearly 8,000 megawatts by 2040. We are also investing in you. Specifically, our plan allocates more money for energy waste reduction and demand response programs that can help you manage your energy use. Energy waste reduction programs help you use energy more efficiently. Demand response programs, like Peak Power Savers, help us shift the demand for electricity to times when people don’t normally use as much. Those shifts can help avoid the need to build more expensive fossil fuel power plants.

The need to make sure this plan keeps energy affordable and reliable was top of mind for us throughout the process. To help address both issues, we propose acquiring four existing natural gas-fired power plants.

Natural gas-fired power plants provide reliable power generation immediately, and burning natural gas produces far less CO2 emissions. That 63 million tons of CO2 reduction we quoted earlier? That factors in the use of natural gas, too. These existing facilities already are operating in Michigan, so adding them to our generating portfolio would not create new or additional greenhouse gas emissions. 

Technology is still catching up to the needs and demands of our clean energy future. Renewable energy is a cost-effective way to generate electricity, but the electricity it creates is not always available. We know a lot about energy storage, our Ludington Pumped Storage facility acts as one of the largest batteries in the world but for other technologies.

Natural gas-fired power plants are also nimbler than coal-fired power plants. On days when renewables are providing plenty of inexpensive power, these can be taken offline and brought back online within minutes when needed.

We will support the roughly 500 co-workers directly affected by our decision to retire our Campbell and Karn power plants. As we have done with previous coal plant closures, we will continue to exercise care with both our co-workers and communities as we transition through plant closure and retirement.

The voices of Michiganders are well represented in this plan. Over 315 people participated in our virtual public forums or in the technical conferences we held as a part of the IRP process. We also engaged closely with key stakeholders from government, customer groups, environmental groups and non-utility energy providers with a variety of positions, opinions and energy-related goals.

With all of that input, it was also clear that our decision to retire our coal-fired power plants early will have a dramatic effect on the communities those are located in. We’ll support Port Sheldon Township (Campbell), Hampton Township (Karn) and their respective regions as they re-imagine their local economic landscapes after the plants are retired. That means working closely with stakeholders to identify and meet challenges related to the closures through the economic transition.

Learn more about our plan and how you can become a force of change for clean energy here.